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Weezer

Raditude

Rating: 3.5/ 5.0

Label: DGC/ Interscope

Weezer is a band that has struggled to please everyone. They have remained popular, but critical reaction to their work has declined notably ever since 2002’s Maladroit. Their music has always been teen-friendly but on this newest album Raditude, it appears Weezer is going back to basics. Frontman Rivers Cuomo teamed with confirmed hit makers such as Jermaine Dupri and Polow Da Don, and out of these sessions, Raditude was born. The album has a refreshing levity that has been absent from the band’s more recent output, and that translates into music that sounds inventive and inspired, despite it being steeped in the banalities of modern music. Essentially by teaming with the likes of Dupri, Weezer decided to write radio-friendly hits, and in this decision they have found a dormant vitality to their work that makes Raditude a real benchmark in their catalog, for better or worse.

Because their first record, 1994’s unofficially-titled Blue Album is so beloved, the band has developed as fickle and judgmental a fan base as any band could. Songs like “My Name is Jonas” and “Undone (The Sweater Song)” have become iconic, introspective works, bordering on Smiths-like worship and dissection. The songs on Raditude sound as if there were self-consciously written to appease the ones responsible for a lot of the backlash against later day Weezer albums. “Can’t Stop Partying” might be the song that best exemplifies this style. Not only was it co-written with Dupri, but also features a guest verse by Lil Wayne, to supplement Cuomo singing about Grey Goose, the VIP section and shots of Patron. The song, which comes off like an absolute joke and finds its strength in its face value approach, despite its overtly ridiculous theme. Throughout the album there is a palpable sense of humor, suggesting a renewed vigor to Weezer’s songwriting and arrangements. “In the Mall” features Cuomo’s beloved crunching guitars, capturing the ambiance of a big, crowded space, though hearing a 39-year old man sing about hopping escalators could be sad if done by anyone else.

Many of the songs on the album sound like outtakes from an ’80s teen comedy’s soundtrack- would there be a more fitting title for one of those than Raditude? “The Girl Got Hot” features THAT scene, where the ugly duckling has become a swan; the chugging guitars and Cuomo’s emphatic singing suggest the image of him climbing on stage at film’s end and performing this very same song. “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” has a bouncy beat and Cuomo adjusts his pitch to a slightly higher register, articulating the frustration with wanting to make the first move in an awkward high school relationship. Although, Cuomo is far past his sell-by date, his earnest songwriting has always been attuned to this teenage sensibility.

Most of Cuomo’s past work shows a man wracked with self-doubt and angst but an album like Raditude stands as a therapeutic step forward. It is either an extended “fuck you” to a legion of smarmy fans, or a refreshing new direction for a band that has been trying to recreate its success for almost two decades, but one thing is certain: it may or may not be what fans wanted, but it is exactly what Weezer needed.

by Rafael Gaitan
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